I couldn’t resist taking macro shots of a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers my best friend gave me to cheer me. The sunflowers were spectacular! I used a small aperture to increase depth of field. I turned off the lights around the flowers. When the overhead light was on, the petals were overexposed and there were shadows in the center of the flower. I used a small flashlight to light the flower for this image.
The camera was on a tripod and set on the self-timer mode. During the 13 second exposure, I waved the light from the flashlight all over the flower. The flower remained dark for the rest of the 13 seconds. I experimented with the amount of time the flashlight was lighting the flower until I got an image I was satisfied with. This resulted in more even lighting in the final image. It was so simple and fun! You might enjoy trying this on a rainy day.
My mood for macro continued and I discovered this lichen on a wood fence on Palmatory Street in Horicon. Lichen is fungus plus algae or cyanobacteria. Fungi cannot make their own food. They need one of the other two substances. Soil fertility is improved when fungus joins with cyanobacteria. Lichen can colonize on almost any undisturbed surface. I love the texture of the wood with the leafy lichen. It grows less than 1 millimeter per year. This lichen has been growing a very long time.
I think the gray green color would be an excellent interior paint color. I suppose “Lichen Gray” would probably not be a big seller.
The subtle bluish-purple petals of Chicory delight the eye. If you can identify the insect, please let us know in the comments section. I looked at hundreds of photos of bees and wasps and didn’t see an exact match. Chicory, intermingled with Queen Anne’s Lace, edging back roads is one of many reasons I am grateful to live in Wisconsin.
You would think this colorful, tiger-striped caterpillar would turn into a beautiful Monarch butterfly, since it is eating Milkweed leaves, wouldn’t you? This is a Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar or Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar. He eats Milkweed just like a Monarch caterpillar eats. This eye catching caterpillar turns into a drab beige Tiger Moth or Tussock Moth.
Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillars hang out in groups of up to 50 caterpillars. They have quite an appetite and can decimate a Milkweed plant leaving only bare stems.
This group of caterpillars found the Milkweeds planted near the Education and Visitors Center on Highway 28 at the Horicon Marsh.
Drifts of Dense Blazing Star Liatris beautifully complement Queen Anne’s Lace near the entrance of the Education and Visitor’s Center. Queen Anne’s Lace is a distant relative of the garden carrot. The first-year taproot can be cooked and eaten.
A sea of white, yellow, and purple wildflowers grows next to the Education and Visitors Center. These prairie plants attract bees, butterflies, and birds.
Bright yellow Prairie Coneflowers cheer the hearts of hikers along the Bachhuber Trail. According to the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers, if the center of the coneflower is bruised, it smells like anise.
After a refreshing visit at the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area, I drove north to the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. Both areas form the Horicon Marsh. The Eastern Kingbird perched in a tree along Highway 49.
He had company. Two more Kingbirds were assertively making sure they got his attention.
I thought they were being aggressive and defending their territory, but they were begging for a tasty grasshopper treat. Kingbirds feed their young for up to seven weeks.
I entered the auto tour and a chipmunk scurried out of his grassy hole to investigate.
He munched on a seed while watching the cars go by. Check out those fingernails!
Eclipse Male Wood Ducks are seen in late summer after the breeding season. They retain their bright red eye and red bill.
Female Wood Ducks have a large white eye patch and a gray bill. There are a lot of Wood Ducks along the auto tour and Highway 49 lately.
Juvenile Gallinules find something interesting below the Duckweed on the water’s surface.
Do you find brown ducks hard to identify? I find them difficult. I think this is a Mottled Duck. A Black Duck has darker plumage that is not so well outlined as this pair. A female Mallard has a dark area on the bill. An eclipse Mallard has white on the tail. A female Gadwall has a more slender bill. What do you think? Please join the discussion in the comment section.
I finished the evening at Palmatory Street watching the sunset until the mosquitos chased me away. There are so many diverse things to see at the Horicon Marsh.
Sunny Yellow Warblers flitted among the willows along the auto tour on the Horicon Marsh today. The annual bird festival is in full swing and multitudes of birders have traveled to the Marsh to enjoy the abundant spring birds. The weather is gorgeous and the plentiful sounds of cheery songbirds fill the air.
This Black-crowned Night-Heron paused among the broken reeds along Highway 49. Unlike the perky sounding songbirds, he emits a raspy squawk.
Canada Geese typically extend their neck forward and put their head down when they are aggressively encountering an enemy. Perhaps, they are giving the kids a lesson in how to protect their children some day. The goslings are taking it in with rapt attention.
This nesting box caught my attention from the road as I drove by early in the day. I came back this evening to take a closer look.
What an exciting discovery! The nesting box was probably toasty and the Eastern Screech-Owl popped her head out and napped. I imagine sitting on eggs for 30 days is a bit tiring. The male was most likely hiding in a nearby tree. He would hunt for food at night and bring it to her while she is nesting. There are likely 2-6 eggs. There is also a gray morph of this species.
I met a couple who were also checking on the owl. They came out from Madison and joined the morning birding bus tour for the bird festival. One hundred and twenty-five birds were identified this morning!
Fifteen painted turtles came out to enjoy the sunny, warm day.
Purple Martins look rather crabby, don’t you think? This fellow was perched on the martin houses on the Palmatory Street overlook. Purple Martins are the largest North American Swallow. They get all their food while flying by dining on flying insects.
These Female Purple Martins are checking up on one another. Spend a few minutes watching the birds at these houses, and it is evident they are quite social.
What a treat to see such a variety of birds at the Horicon Marsh annual bird festival!
Tree Swallows could make a happy home from mid-May to July in this type of nest box in the Horicon Marsh area. Nest boxes should not be opened, like this one, during nesting season. If you are interested in building your own nest box, nestwatch.org is a website that is a part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and it is loaded with information. The interactive home page allowed me to type in my region (“Great Lakes”) and my habitat (“Marsh”) which took me to a page listing 10 bird species whose numbers are declining in this area. I can download construction plans for a nesting box to encourage these birds to nest here. The site tells me how high I should put the nesting box, what I should attach it to, and what direction it should face. I can decide whether it is a project I want to tackle, because it lets me know if it is a complex or an easy box to build. I can also find out when each species is expected to nest in my region. What a great way to encourage declining bird species to nest at the Horicon Marsh!
This pair of Rough-legged Hawks was perched high in a tree on Highway 49. This type of hawk spends its summer in the arctic tundra and it travels south to our area in the winter. The name “Rough-legged” refers to the feathered legs. There are only two other American raptors that have feathered legs to the toes. Do you know what they are? In my previous post, we discussed the legs of raptors and one reason that they can perch for so long. Another reason is the structure of their tendons. Raptor tendons have a covering surrounding them called a sheath. This is similar to an electrical wire with insulation around it. Picture the wire with little bumps all over it. The insulation has ridges on the inside of it next to the wire. Stretching the tendon causes increased tension that presses the tendon and sheath together. The bumps on the tendon catch in between the ridges of the sheath producing a ratchet effect and preventing the tendons from sliding. The weight of a hawk’s body increases this effect when it perches. This adds to the ability of the hawk to stay perched for long periods of time without expending energy.
The bold black wing patch is a distinctive feature of the Rough-legged Hawk. This hawk has a gorgeous feather coloration pattern that is visible as it takes flight.
This residual tree stump embedded in barbed wire caught my eye. This could be a good metaphor. If you come up with one, I would love to hear it in the comment section.
Two male Ring-necked Pheasants were strolling in the tall grass along Dike Road.
I got to make the rounds today from Palmatory Street in Horicon to Highway 49 to Dike Road. It is always a fun adventure of discovery at the Horicon Marsh.
Seven inches of snow fell in the Horicon Marsh area a few days ago and more is on the way. The winter wonderland creates some great opportunities for photography. Snow presents some challenges for proper exposure, especially if the sun is shining. Often, photos of snow look gray and flat.
This Ring-necked Pheasant was a pleasant surprise. He meandered along the side of Palmatory Street in Horicon undisturbed by my car. I drove alongside him and stopped occasionally to snap a few pictures. He displayed no fear as he walked closer to inspect my car. He did look both ways before crossing. I’m not kidding. Eventually, he walked in front of the car and I waited until he roamed back into the snowy brush. I focused on his head when taking his picture. I didn’t care if the snow was a bit overexposed in this case. I was more concerned about the Pheasant being exposed properly.
I switched to manual mode when a correct exposure of the snow was important to the photo. I set the ISO to 200 since less sensitivity to light is needed. The aperture was set to give me the depth of field I wanted. I experimented with having the whole bridge in focus and having the back of the bridge go out of focus. Then I adjusted the shutter speed until the exposure level scale at the bottom of the viewfinder was in the center. I took a shot and looked at the histogram. I wanted the right-most color in the RGB graph to be just at the right edge of the graph. If it wasn’t, I adjusted the shutter speed up or down. For RAW images, we want the right-most color on the graph to touch the right edge of the graph without climbing up. For JPEG images, we want the right-most color to be just short of the right edge of the graph.
I added a polarizing filter and took a few more shots using the above technique. I stood about 90 degrees to the sun and rotated the filter until I could see more texture in the snow. It darkened the sky and cut the glare on the snow.
I would love to have spent more time playing with depth of field and composition, but it was only 10 degrees and breezy. Fingerless gloves allowed me to work the controls on the camera. A couple of hand warmers in my pockets kept my fingers warm. I just discovered these biodegradable hand warmers from L. L. Bean. Just open the package and they start to warm up. After returning home, the warmers went in my slippers to warm up my toes. They last up to 10 hours.
Before getting back in my warm car, I put my camera in a plastic bag. Then I put it in my camera bag. When I got home, I let the bag warm up before removing my camera. Condensation stayed on the outside of the plastic bag and not in my camera. I made myself a hot cup of tea while waiting for the camera to warm up.
It is early in the winter season and there will be plenty more opportunities to play in the snow. If only it could be 70 degrees at the same time.
Note: I do not receive any compensation from LL Bean.
Deer hunters emblazoned with orange clothing were sprinkled throughout the Horicon Marsh today. The auto tour is closed for our safety. Gale force winds the last few days stripped the trees of their leaves, except for a few tenacious ones clinging in defiance of dropping temperatures. The surface of the water is already starting to freeze as a result of 30 degree temperatures the last two days. Geese were standing on top, rather than in, the shallow marsh water.
I don’t know what type of clouds filled the sky today, but let’s just call them amazing. I used my polarizing filter to try and capture the contours. Turning the filter can darken the sky and works well if you are 90 degrees to the sun. A polarizing filter does not work well if the sun is in front of you or behind you. It darkened the sky and I lost about two shutter speeds, which was fine since I wasn’t shooting wildlife on the move.
These were taken on Palmatory Street in Horicon and along Highway Z.
I have always liked the texture on this building and the trail leading to the woods. If you follow it, you can walk all the way to the Education and Visitor Center on Highway 28.
This is facing the same direction as the building. It is fascinating how the clouds start in a straight line high in the sky.
Thanks to Lawrence Colby for featuring the above photo of the Horicon Marsh on his website colbyaviationthrillers.com. You will find the photo in his blog post today titled “World, Meet Captain Ford Stevens.” Colby’s exciting first book The DevilDragon Pilot will be released at amazon.com on December 10. If you are looking for a page turner, this is the book for you. The photo was taken on Palmatory Street in Horicon.
Today is also the birthday of the Best Brother in the Whole World. We took the class Creating WordPress Websites together. You can read about woodworking projects you can do yourself and inspirational thoughts about entrepreneurship on his blog at traughberdesign.com.
“Poetry is a fresh morning spider web telling a story of moonlit hours of weaving and waiting during a night.”
“The difference between utility and utility plus beauty is the difference between telephone wires and the spider web.”
Edwin Way Teale
“Just imagine the banner headlines if a marine biologist were to discover a species of dolphin that wove large,
intricately meshed fishing nets, twenty dolphin-lengths in diameter!
Yet we take a spider web for granted, as a nuisance in the house rather than as one of the wonders of the world.”
“Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider’s web?”
“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”
“What’s miraculous about a spider’s web?” said Mrs. Arable. “I don’t see why you say a web is a miracle–it’s just a web.”
“Ever try to spin one?” asked Dr. Dorian.
E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web